Partnering with the Community

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Guiding Principle # 3

Partners make different levels of commitment to a NORC program.

Actions and Considerations

Create a framework for understanding the nature and extent of each partner’s engagement. Most NORC programs have core partners and then a variety of flexible relationships with other community stakeholders:

  • Core partners: The key actors in a NORC program, core partners are typically committed to the larger goals of the program, have an ongoing role in its day-to-day functions and services, and accept responsibility for its overall success. They recognize the work that needs to be done and their roles in doing it, and they know success will take time. Core partners share a mission.
  • Collaborators: Some participants focus on specific projects related to the NORC program. Collaborators are often willing and able to bring additional resources to the table.
  • Other community stakeholders: At the periphery of a NORC program are people and organizations that provide modest, but useful, support or become involved in one-time events.

While the work of core partners can touch on almost every feature of a NORC program, the activities of collaborators and other community stakeholders are generally more focused.

For example:
  • A police department acted as a collaborator with its efforts to advance public safety among East Point NORC program participants near Atlanta.
  • A home health care agency that offered a weekly wellness clinic at the Crestmoor Downs program in Denver served a comparable role.

Examples of what a more peripheral stakeholder can do include a library that offers space for a book club, a hospital that provides a Thanksgiving banquet, a bookstore that hosts a poetry reading, and a local bank that displays art created by senior residents.

Recognize and respect differing levels of engagement. Some participants need or want to be involved in all partnership decisions all the time. Others prefer, or are only able, to participate in a more limited way. Partners should be clear with one another about the nature of their involvement. Every partner has different strengths and constraints that should be honored and accommodated.

Promote senior participation at many levels. Some seniors are willing to make the commitment to assume leadership roles—for example, coordinating volunteer efforts, serving as advisors, or promoting the program in the community. Others play a more limited role, typically by giving time to specific projects.

Honor participants for what they contribute. Acknowledge unique skills and strengths, and take time to celebrate everyone’s efforts. To keep people enthusiastically at the table, make sure they feel valued for their contributions to the NORC program. Volunteer recognition—such as a special luncheon, an awards ceremony, or a gift certificate—is always welcome.

Keep in Mind

Be mindful of the constraints on the time and resources of your partners. Most people who come into a partnership at any level have other demanding personal and professional commitments. Be sensitive to their other activities, responsibilities, and goals.

Staying flexible allows partners to be involved at the level that works for them at a given point in time. Remember, this can change; partners at the periphery may later decide to become more involved, or drop out. Continue to Guiding Principle #4
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